Legacy of the Crystal Shard Kickoff

I played the opening session of Murder in Baldur’s gate and yesterday I played the opening to the new encounters season, Legacy of the Crystal Shard.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the quality of adventures being put out by Wizards of the Coast has risen dramatically.  And I put some thought into when that happened.  I think it was late 2011 early 2012 around when they released the Neverwinter Campaign Setting and the updated version of “Against the Giants.”  The adventures aren’t a cookie cutter set of combat encounters, but rather almost a mini-setting of their own.  You do want you want in the playground and leave the rest.My big fear was one of motivation.  Looking at the adventure preview online, I didn’t know what to bring to the table.  Typically, I play rogues.  The mechanics interest me and it facilitates a more creative experience.  But I was conflicted because I didn’t want to bring a character completely unsuited to the game.  I couldn’t think of a character who would have a reason to go to the Icewind Dale.  It looked like it took place in an arctic shithole of a town.  Not necessarily conducive to a more charismatic character.  And I think its part of the Player-DM social contract to bring characters appropriate to the game.  As TV Tropes says, a munchkin is someone who upon being told the game is about politics in Renaissance Italy, asks to be a ninja.  If the adventure is a cookie cutter set of combat encounters, I wouldn’t want to bring a character who can talk their way out of trouble because the DM doesn’t intend you to be able to do that.  The previous seasons of D&D Encounters were more like that.  So I prepared two rogues, one was a stout halfling con man, the other was a Dwarf Tinkerer more ranger than rogue better suited to an icy wasteland.So when we began playing, everyone was given a very brief background explaining why we were going to Ten Towns, the wintry burg and the setting for the adventure.  I loved it.  I didn’t know if this was WotC sponsored or not but it was brilliant.  My character was headed north to wait for some heat to die down after a crime they may or may not have committed.  It fit perfectly.  I was even able to rewrite my character to from more of a scheming noble to a scheming criminal.  My fish out of water, unsuited to the environment background was now the point rather than a problem.I do have one complaint, maybe this is more cultural than anything else.  But this DM and the one I played Baldur’s Gate with both kept to the miniatures and a grid system.  Ugh.  If there’s line of guards between me and a gang leader I want to kill, what matters is that there are three of them with weapons drawn, not that its 15 feet to the guards and another 10 to the leader.  It matters for 4th edition, not here.What I like about this adventure is that it feels so organic and flowing.  We get into town, what happens next?  Up to you.  Everyone’s got their own background with plot hooks.  Being a rogue, a go looking for a criminal element, and there is one.  We ended right before we head into the underworld.  I really can’t wait to play again.This was also my first time with the latest and last packet of rules from September/October.  There were previous sets I liked more.  I feel like this rogue is a bit too unfocused.  Before I could choose things that made the character play more like the character.  I could choose less combat focused options, or more offensive options.  All choices were valid.  And being good at one thing and bad at another makes the character feel real.  This version of the rogue class feels like someone’s idea of an archetype of a rogue.  It doesn’t feel unique.  But it is fun.  It works, its just so generic.  Like if you designed a rogue class by committee instead of letting, you know, the player determine what character they wanted to play.  Before, you chose tricks.  These were specific abilities.  That made my character feel special.  Now I get every ability doled out slowly over the course of 20 levels.  It’s a great game, it just feels like the most generic fantasy RPG ever rather than the culmination of 30+ years of D&D game design.  Its fun but if you asked me to describe it, I would have to say, it is fantasy RPG.
Just a side note btw.  The next person who says in response to a complaint about an RPG, hey the GM can do whatever they want is getting chained to a radiator, splashed with gasoline, and given a hacksaw.  They will then be told, hey you can get out however you want as I light a match.